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Marijuana Business News Opinion

Dear O.penVape – Lets Have A Constructive Discussion About Drug Testing

o.penvape openvape open vape drug testingYesterday was a very hard day for me as a blogger/activist/freedom fighter/lover of all things marijuana. A press release from O.penVape, a vaporizer pen company based out of Colorado, was brought to the attention of the marijuana reform community. The press release highlights the fact that O.penVape proudly drug tests its employees. It’s worth noting that the employee drug testing policy excludes marijuana. However, it’s a drug testing policy nonetheless.

As veteran reformers know, and long time Weed Blog fans know, I have never supported drug testing in the workplace. Not for marijuana obviously, but also not for anything else. As a comprehensive ACLU study shows, workplace drug testing doesn’t work. It’s an invasion of privacy, and it’s not effective. This is something that reformers have pointed out for a long, long time.

O.penVape’s press release put me in a position I never thought I’d be in. Prior to yesterday, I honestly felt that I was their biggest fan. No one was more disappointed to see that press release than me in my opinion. I loved their vape pen that I got as a gift from a friend. I tweeted about how much I loved it, I posted about how much I loved it on my Facebook page, and in numerous articles. However, as much as I loved my pen, it doesn’t outweigh my love for freedom, and definitely doesn’t outweigh my disdain for the war on drugs as a whole.

The reaction to O.penVape’s drug testing press release was one of the largest I’ve ever seen in the marijuana world, which is saying a lot. Members of almost every major reform organization, members of the marijuana media, and consumers themselves started tweeting and posting on Facebook calling for a boycott of O.penVape products. As is always the case on a weekday during business hours, I was stuck in my cubicle killing time on Twitter and Facebook, and was watching all of this unfold.

Russ Belville, a long time valued contributor to The Weed Blog, posted an article on The Weed Blog calling for the boycott of O.penVape products unless they changed their policy. I posted a link on my personal Facebook in support of the article, which was then spread far and wide as it usually does. After a brief time, I took the post down. Not because I agree with workplace drug testing (I obviously don’t), but because I have two business partners at The Weed Blog who hadn’t told me their official opinion yet, and I didn’t want my official opinion to be construed as being their opinion. They are both out of town (and we don’t live near each other even if they were home), and while I feel they would agree that drug testing is bad, I’ll wait for them to express their own opinions. I stand by my beliefs, but again, these are my beliefs, not necessarily theirs.

I personally feel that O.penVape is in a vulnerable position. To be clear, I’ve never talked to anyone from O.penVape, other than on Twitter. I’ve never been on a phone call with them, I’ve never been in a meeting with them, I’ve never even e-mailed back and forth with them. Everything that I know about their drug testing policy I learned from their press release, and the social media debate that followed. I have questions that I’d like to ask the company.

For starters, what is the objective of this drug testing policy? It’s my understanding that it’s to create a safe work environment. If so, my next question is ‘has there been a problem with impairment at the company that has led to safety issues?’ If yes, then by all means lets try to brainstorm the best way(s) to increase worker safety at O.penVape. But if not, then I’m finding it hard to wrap my head around the need to drug test employees. I know the company works a lot with volatile chemicals, is the drug testing required by law because of this? Or is this something that the company is doing on it’s own free will in an attempt to be proactive? Because if it’s the latter, numerous studies show that workplace drug testing doesn’t provide even close to enough benefits to outweigh such an invasion of privacy.

As one member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition pointed out, even police departments don’t drug test their employees, because taking action after on-the-job impairment is suspected is a much better policy. Fighting for marijuana reform isn’t just about marijuana – it’s about freedom, as Russ Belville pointed out on his show. People should be hired because of their skills and kept as an employee because of their work performance, not because of the purity of their urine/saliva/hair. This is true anywhere, but it’s especially true in the marijuana industry.

This O.penVape controversy highlights the current clash between the desires of corporate marijuana, and the desires of the marijuana reform community that made the industry possible. How successful a boycott on O.penVape will be is yet to be determined; only time will tell. However, I think it’s a virtual guarantee that if O.penVape doesn’t change their policy, calls for a boycott will continue to grow, which can’t be good for their bottom line. After all, it’s not like there is just one or two people upset about this. Almost every prominent activist I have ever worked with is supporting this boycott.

I’m extremely hopeful that O.penVape changes their policy. It would change this from a PR nightmare into a great opportunity, as everyone that currently opposes them would likely applaud their change of direction and start promoting their products. I know I would. If O.penVape sticks to their policy, I just don’t see how this would work out for them. Yes, they would still sell some products. But they will have to deal with this lingering issue forever, because activists are not going to give up. Marijuana reform victories are proof of that.

On my Facebook I suggested that The Weed Blog would not be working with O.penVape, which was not entirely accurate. Again, those were my views, not those of my business partners. I’d imagine they agree with me, but I will let them speak for themselves. I stand by my personal statement that I won’t accept money from companies that drug test, and are indirectly supporting the drug war. This isn’t about whether or not marijuana is good and other drugs are bad. Drug testing companies don’t make that distinction. Dollars that are given to drug testing companies become dollars that are used to fight marijuana reform, which history has clearly shown. I’m not OK with that, and O.penVape shouldn’t be either if they truly love marijuana.

I am extending an offer to O.penVape to have a constructive conversation about workplace drug testing. No name calling, no ad hominem attacks. I want them to provide their side of the story, and offer up facts and statistics to back up their policies. The reform/consumer side can do the same, and I’m hopeful that something good comes out of it. I’m hopeful that it results in O.penVape changing their policy. I leave open the chance that O.penVape presents compelling arguments that keeps their policy in place, while at the same time satisfying the questions/concerns of the reform community. However, I just don’t see how that can happen for the reasons previously mentioned. I would also like to invite Russ Belville and Tom Angell to participate in the discussion, as well as other high profile activists and members of the marijuana business community. Members from the business community have expressed support for O.penVape to me in private, and I’m curious if they would go on the record with that support for the public to see.

The logistics of having this conversation are yet to be determined. It’s something that has to be better than Facebook wall posts and character-limited tweets. I don’t know everyone else’s schedules, but mine is usually pretty harsh. I’m locked into a cubicle for most of every weekday, and at night and on weekends I have to balance family time, blogging, activism, and sanity, which I assure you, is no easy task! If you feel strongly about this (for or against), and you’re an activist, consumer, or marijuana business owner, please send me a direct message on Twitter and we will go from there. Be advised that I don’t check my Weed Blog e-mail that often for various reasons, nor do I have the time to check every Facebook message that is sent to me. Send me a direct message on Twitter – it’s the best way to get a hold of me right now (@thatjohnnygreen).

I truly hope this matter gets resolved for all sides. This Saturday should involve doing yardwork, basking in the glory that is the Portland Trailblazers, and participating in the Global Marijuana March, not this madness! But it’s very important that we get this worked out, for better or worse. I look forward to reading the comments, talking to people that are fired up about this, and talking to O.penVape, if they are willing. I reserve the right to treat this article as a living document, and updating it as needed. It’s possible that the conversation I’m calling for happens on this article, or a series of articles, or in some other forum. Stay tuned!

  • Guest

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  • Denny

    If an employee is aware of the drug testing policy for their company then they have the option of complying or quitting and getting a job elsewhere. Regardless of the progress being made in the quest for marijuana legalization, it is never going to become a non-issue in the workplace. In reality, most people wouldn’t want to pull the workload for a stereotypical stoner who has the mindset that it’s OK to come to work loaded.
    While I am aware of the various strains that are more suitable for daytime use, the fact remains that people are minimally affected with regard to mental functioning. Some tests have reasonably concluded that mental impairment, as in one’s ability to think/absorb information/evaluate/respond appropriately and quickly, is diminished to some extent with virtually every “daytime” strain available now, albeit minimally.
    Let’s offer some viable solutions to the challenges that come along, such as this one, rather than simply taking the easy road and railing against everything and everyone that opposes any use of marijuana, medical or otherwise. Demonstrating a genuine interest in melding into society as functional folks rather than cruising along as unproductive stoners is the most suitable way to progress.

  • Doc Deadhead

    The main reason for drug testing in the workplace is to lower the workman’s comp bill for the business.

    Workman’s compensation insurance is very expensive and is rated according to the dangerous aspects of the job.

    For instance in Florida the workman’s comp insurance on a full time roofer is actually MORE than the wages paid to the worker. If I remember right it was about 130% of the workers wages, in other words if the worker got paid $7 an hour the employer would have to pay close to $10 an hour for his workman’s comp insurance.

    A worker in an office situation would require only 20-30% of their wages be matched for insurance.

    That same insurance would drop drastically if the business implemented drug testing. The insurance industry assumes there will be less accidents when it is a drug free workplace.

    This may be a show they are putting on for the publicity but in reality they are just lowering their workman’s comp bill.

  • J.

    I find three
    points within your blog post interesting and feel they require further critical
    discussion. Whilst I do agree that
    employees have every right to privacy and that what they do for recreational
    purposes in the weekend may not impair their judgement and performance during
    the week: being a part of a dangerous
    industry using heavy machinery, the chance of any employee being impaired could
    have severe and fatal consequences overcomes the arguments there are against
    workplace drug testing.

    Firstly, your argument that workplace
    drug testing does not work, that it is an invasion of privacy and is not
    effective. How could we argue this point
    to an employee whom has been injured or adversely affected by a colleague under
    the influence or impaired from a big night out?
    What right does that employee have?
    Every person has an undeniable right to return home from work safely
    every day, this right is paramount and should not be taken away. To apply a
    level of privacy to the individual employee that may use drugs occasionally, there
    are third-party laboratories that carry out the testing and the majority of
    these testing practices have a level that determines a chronic user compared to
    the occasional user. If the test falls
    below this level, the result only comes back as negative (Environmental Science
    and Research, 2010, pg9), therefore respecting that employees right to privacy.
    The Environmental Science and Research,
    2010, pg9, also states that “the purpose of workplace drug testing is to identify
    significant residues, not minute traces”. But not carrying out workplace drug testing at
    all can lead to an ignorance around the effect that substance use has on one’s
    judgement and has the potential to cause serious harm or injury or potential
    fatalities and the right for someone to live be paramount. My next question to you would be; how can one
    prove that Workplace drug testing is not effective? Employees of a business that adopts a Drug
    and Alcohol policy that involves testing, may actually change their personal
    substance use habits and interests, and, as stated in Environmental Science and
    Research, 2010, para 7, many employers they work with see the benefits of a
    drug testing programme not only in the safety within the business but also
    reduced absenteeism, reduced staff turnover and increased productivity. I would argue that these 2 points alone would
    prove drug testing in the workplace to be highly effective and worthy adopting
    the policy in many companies.

    Secondly,
    you point out the question of ‘the objective of the drug testing policy’. As you state, it is understood it was adopted
    to “create a safe working environment” and you question whether there had been
    any impairment leading to safety issues.
    In New Zealand, An employer has an obligation to its employees and any
    external acquaintances within its business to provide a safe working
    environment for all. This is a
    responsibility that employers must meet under the Health and Safety in
    Employment Act 1992. Yes, the employer
    must also take into account the Privacy Act 1993 and Human Rights Act
    1993. The Health and Safety in
    Employment Act states that all employers must identify all possible hazards and
    take all practicable steps to minimise the effect of those hazards (New Zealand
    Legislation, Health and Safety in Employment Act, section 6). Drug use has been identified as a workplace
    safety hazard. The business you speak of
    in my mind would appear to be taking the responsibility of its employee’s
    safety quite seriously and is looking at minimising drugs and alcohol use as a
    hazard before a serious incident
    takes place. The fact that there may not
    be a history of these accidents does not make the possibility of something
    serious happening being unlikely.

    Thirdly, the
    suggestion that taking a form of action after
    on the job impairment is suspected as a much better policy. What if this suspicion of impairment comes
    after a serious or fatal accident has occurred?
    Have we not considered the other employees rights? A drug or alcohol screening test at this
    point is not going to change the outcome for the person that had been
    injured. This point comes back to again,
    the employers’ responsibility to ensure its employees and customers return home
    from work safely every day. Again, any
    employees right to live and return home every day must be paramount. These responsibilities give sufficient need
    for the employer to claim that any information about drug use must be obtained
    in order to prevent potential harm to others (DesJardins,J. & Duska, R.
    2001)

    To summarise
    my arguments above; Yes, there may be some employees whom engage in occasional
    recreational activities with drugs and alcohol, and I do agree that these
    people are entitled to a level of privacy and should not be adversely affected
    by what they choose to do in their own time.
    The statement from The Environmental Science and Research, 2010, pg9, of
    “the purpose of workplace drug testing is to identify significant residues, not
    minute traces” and the way these drug tests are being performed only reporting
    a certain level as ‘positive’, allows employers to apply that level of privacy
    to these occasional users, but continues to allow the employers to ensure their
    premises is a safe place to work and visit. Workplace drug testing is becoming more and
    more widely used and I support the adoption of this policy as a vital step in
    minimising the effect and impaired employee could have on others safety.

    http://www.esr.cri.nz/SiteCollectionDocuments/ESR/PDF/WorkplaceDrugTesting/WDThandbook-June.pdf
    Retrieved 11 May 2014.

    DesJardins,J.
    & Duska, R. (2001) Drug testing in employment. In TL Beauchamp & NE
    Bowie, Ethical theory and business (6th
    ed) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

    The
    Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. (1996). 71203 Business Ethics (2013 Revised
    Ed.). Lower Hutt, New Zealand: The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.

    Green,J
    (2014, May 3) Dear Openvape Lets Have A Constructive Discussion About Drug
    Testing (Web Log Post) Retrieved from http://www.theweedblog.com May 10 2014

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1992/0096/latest/whole.html#DLM278829
    Retrieved 11 May 2014

  • Let me first start off by stating the point “Marijuana IS NOT a drug”. We really need to stop accepting this as a common law. Secondly, I believe that employee “random” drug testing a definite invasion of privacy however if an employee in the work place is obviously under the influence of drugs I do believe that an employer has an obligation to ensure the safety of other by drug testing that employee. The bottom line is leave your personal lifestyle at home were it doesn’t affect others.

    http://www.passdrugtestsfast.com

  • A Good Lesson Learned Hard Way

    I get the uproar…I really do. Consumers spoke. O Pen Vape listened. However, we have to give these pioneering companies a little leeway. They are going to make mistakes. Did they learn from their mistake? You bet. Someone made a bad PR call. Hands down a huge error by someone who had no clue as to what they were doing. Thats why they need to hire professionals. As they grow, these companies have to spend money on resources not needed until now. They will need lobbyists. They will need real marketing and PR folks. They will need everything a Goggle, Camel, corporation needs to adapt to the “new world” they have joined.

    I just read where Todd Mitchum called himself a PR expert and that he is not. His expertise probably cost them a lot of money and a few customers that will have to be won back.